Phew, yesterday was double entendre fatigue day.
One aspect of The Sexual Politics of Meat as a phenomenon is the sexual play on words that we find in dead animal restaurant culture. Phrases like “are you a breast man or a thigh man” from Kentucky Fried Chicken, references to “racks” that imply it is a woman’s “rack” not a rack of ribs. For instance, this week a newspaper headline circulated in cyberspace “Succulent racks attract record crowds to Ribfest.” Below the headline was a photo of a woman leaning over her grill (see below), slathering sauce on the ribs of dead animals. But, because of the woman’s decolletage the headline implies something else was succulent, too.
Over the past thirty years, this sexual-politics-of-meat double-entendre phenomenon can be found in the emergence of an entire restaurant category that involves hiring young buxom women as waitstaff. Hooters was only the first of these “breastaurants.” (I hate that word.)
Not surprisingly, Texas leads over any other state in sales at Hooters. Twin Peaks, a more recent restaurant franchise, is also a Texas phenomenon—it was started here and seven restaurants are open in North Texas. Burger Girl started here in Dallas and is now in Las Vegas as well as in other places in Texas. The Honey Shack, which opened in December 2010, started, yep, you guessed it, in Dallas.
Dallas may very well be the epicenter of the “breastaurant” business. After all, the original idea behind Hooters was to have waitresses who looked like the Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleaders.
Even during times of recession, these restaurants continued to grow.
Sex sells. That’s nothing new. But sexual double entendres that create references simultaneously to animals’ bodies and women’s bodies comfort.
Vegans want to direct the consumer to think about the entire body/being of an animal. Sellers of dead animals don’t want you to think that way. Better to enjoy a breast, or a thigh, a rack, then the fragmented body parts of slaughtered animals. Sexual references massage the dead meat into a doubly consumable object.
This is so deeply embedded into our culture, many people don’t see it at work. It’s just there. Ha ha, a joke. What’s there to notice? It’s just the way things are. It’s another proof we feminist-vegans don’t have a sense of humor. (We do have a sense of humor, not just that sense of humor.)
Sure restaurants and fast food chains have a problem. They have to figure out how to sell a product (dead animal bodies) that has been buffeted by revelations that it is unhealthy, it comes from a process unredeemably cruel and ugly, and it contributes to climate change and environmental devastation. The more sexually salacious their positioning of themselves, the more they are trying to gain control of a message that in many ways they are losing control of.
I expect this sort of thing from restaurants and fast food chains.
But on Wednesday, I was surprised to open The Dallas Morning News to the Business Section and find this headline on their front page: “Hooters alum to help augment Twin Peaks.” For a while, the story was on the front page story on the DMN’s website but with a less explicit nudge nudge wink wink headline.
Twin Peaks’s website makes it clear their audience is men:
“Twin Peaks is about you, because YOU’RE THE MAN! What guy doesn’t crave incredibly tasty house-made comfort food?”
The DMN reporter, Karen Robinson-Jacobs describes Twin Peaks as “the restaurant you might get if Victoria’s Secret opened a hunting lodge.” She reports, “Guests dine on favorites such as meatloaf or chicken-fried steak at rustic tables underneath herds of stuffed animals…”
So, in a world where the economy seems to vibrate like the aftershocks of an earthquake, where downward mobility is a fear if not a fact, where a hell of lot anxieties meet you when you read the headlines, what guy doesn’t want down home comfort?—or so Twin Peaks implies.
With the word “augment” the DMN headline writer, losing any editorial neutrality, participated in the “breastaurant” culture (breast “augmentation” being the referent). I wonder how often the word “augment” is used in headlines in the business section? With that headline, the DMN re-presents and re-inscribes the “breastaurant” business of selling food—especially “male” comfort food of dead animals—through women’s bodies.
The seemlessness in which the Dallas Morning New’s headline accepted and conveyed Hooters’ and Twin Peaks’ viewpoints shows us this is just “Business as Usual.”
If I needed a slogan for feminist-vegans, it might begin with “trying to put an end to business as usual.”
Carol J. Adams is an internationally known writer, feminist, and animal rights advocate. She is the author of the groundbreaking book The Sexual Politics of Meat, released in the year 2010 in a 20th anniversary edition and translated into German, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. She is also the author of The Pornography of Meat, Living Among Meat Eaters and several other books focusing on the links between the oppression of women and that of non-human animals, veganism, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. She is a sought-after speaker throughout North America and Europe, and has been invited to more than 100 campuses, in several countries, to show “The Sexual Politics of Meat Slide Show,” which is always being updated to include contemporary cultural representations.